Page images
PDF
EPUB

nature."* The hills around Medina, in Arabia, Burckhardt considered as decidedly of volcanic origin, being of a bluish black color, very porous, yet heavy and hard, containing small white granules of other minerals. He describes the whole plain as blackened by the debris, by which it is overspread. The inhabitants informed him, that “in the 13th century an earthquake and volcanic eruption were experienced in that region, and that an immense black mass, re, sembling a city, with walls, battlements and minarets, burst forth east of the town, ascending towards heaven with a smoke that blackened the sky." Numerous thermal springs are found along the road to Mecca, and between Syria and Yemen. According to Ali Bey, there are seven groups of volcanic hills near Jedeida in Arabia, of a black color, and resembling picturesque ruins. Several islands in the Red Sea have the same character. Near Suez Burckhardt found petroleum springs, which furnished large quantities of this mineral oil for purposes of commerce ; it being carried to Egypt, where it is extensively employed as a remedy for rheumatism and sores.I Numerous specimens of petrified date trees were also found in this vicinity, some 20 or 30 feet in length, and ten inches in diameter.

THE DEAD SEA. A geological sketch of Palestine requires a more extended description of this celebrated sheet of water. It is called in Scripture the “ Sea of the Plain,(Deut. 3: 17,) the “ Salt Sea," (Deut. 3:17,) the East Sea," (Ezek. 47: 18, from its situation relative to Judea; and by Josephus and the Greek and Latin writers generally, Lacus Asphaltites, from its supposed bituminous properties. In modern times, it has received the name of the Dead Sea, from a tradition that no living creatures can exist in its waters. The Arabs call it Bahar Loth, or the Sea of Lot; it also is known in Syria by the name of Almotanah ; and occupies the southern extremity of the vale of Jordan, extending about 70 miles in length, and 20 in breadth at its broadest part. Near its

* Travels in Turkey, Egypt, Nubia, and Palestine, by R. R. Madden, p. 212.

† Ali Bey's Travels in Asia Minor. & Burckhardt's Travels.

southern extremity is a ford, mentioned by Prof. Robinson, about six miles over, near the middle of which are warm springs. Chemical analysis has dispelled whatever of mystery there has been in respect to the nature of the waters of this lake, and we now know that it is very similar to the waters of saline springs, especially of those in volcanic dis, tricts. According to the analysis of the late Dr. Gordon, it contains of

Muriate of Lime, 3.920 per cent.
Muriate of Magnesia, 10.246
Muriate of Soda, 10.360
Sulphate of Lime, 0.054

24.580 A bottle of water brought home by Dr, Madden, and analyzed, yielded, of

Chloride of Sodium, 9.58 per cent.
Chloride of Magnesium, 5.28
Chloride of Calcium, 3.05
Sulphate of Lime, 1.34

19.25 The saline matter amounts, therefore, to 19,25 per cent., be. sides containing a trace of Bromine ; a new substance lately discovered, by M. Balard, in the waters of the Mediterranean, and since, by the late Dr. Turner, in those of the Frith of Forth. According to Mr. Lyell, a hot spring rises through granite, at Saint Metaire, in Auvergne (France) in the region of the extinct volcanoes, which contains a large proportion of Muriate of Soda, with Magnesia and other ingredients, closely resembling the water of the Dead Sea.* Many springs in Sicily possess similar properties; and some of the brine springs of Cheshire (England), of this State,f and of the valley of the Mississippi, are also very analogous in their

* Lyell's Geology, Vol. I, p. 209.

+ There is a small lake two miles east of Manlius Centre, about 20 rods south of the Erie Canal in the State of NewYork, which is called Lake Sodom. The water tastes like the Harrowgate waters. This is supposed by some geologists, to be the crater of an ancient volcano,

composition. “The waters of the Dead Sea," says Lyell, “ contain scarcely any thing except Muriatic Salts, which lends countenance, observes Dr. Daubeny, to the volcanic origin of the surrounding country, these salts being frequent products of volcanic eruptions."* Pococke had a bottle of ihe waters of the Dead Sea analyzed, the result of which was similar to those above given. In 1778, Messrs. Lavoisier, Macquer and Sage, repeated the analysis, and found that 100 lbs. of water contained 45 lbs. six ounces of saline and earthy ingredients. Its specific gravity is 1.211, that of fresh water being 1000. It is perfectly transparent, contains no Alumine nor Bitumen, as is generally supposed, for bitumen is insoluble in water. It is not fully saturated, as salt requires twice and a half its weight of water at a temperature of 60° for solution; but it is much stronger than any saline springs in this country. It also differs from our brine springs, by containing a greater proportion of Chloride of Magnesium, and less Sulphate of Lime, which is very abundant in our saline waters.

The strongest saline spring in this State is the Liverpool well near Syracuse.t The specific gravity of this water is only 1.114, while that of the Dead Sea is 1.211.-1000 grains of water from this well yielded 149.54 grs. of dry solid matter, while the latter yield 41 per cent. when the residuum is dried with a temperature of 180 Fahrenheit. The following table will exhibit the comparative strength of the waters of the Dead Sea, and the saline springs of the United States, rejecting the magnesia and other earthy ingredients. Of the Dead Sea, 33 gallons of brine give 1 bushel of salt. At Onondaga, 45

do. Muskingum, Illinois,

80 Grand River, (Ark.) 80

do. Kenawha, (Va.) Zanesville,

95

do.
Of Sea Water, 350 do.
Boon's Lick, 450
Shawneetown, (Ill.) 280 do. do.
Jackson, (Ohio,) 213

* Lyell's Geology, Vol. I. p. 209.
† Beck's Geological Report, 1838.

50

do. do. do. do.

do.

do.

75

do.

do. do.

do.

do.

do.

Bituminous matter often rises from the bottom of the lake, floats on the surface, and is thus thrown upon the shores, where it is gathered by the Arabs for medicinal and economical purposes. It is not known to contain any fish, or animals of any description, although the monks of St. Saba told Dr. Shaw, the traveller, that "they had seen fish caught in it ;"* and the credulous Chateaubriand states that when he heard a noise upon the lake at midnight, the Bethlemites told him “it proceeded from legions of small fish which come and leap about on the shore.”+ Pococke, when at Jerusalem, “ heard of a missionary who had seen fish in the lake," and Hasselquist, Maundrell, Seetzen and some others have discovered a few shells on the shore. These shells, however, it is nearly certain, are brought down by the river Jordan, and in all probability the fishes also ; which dying, are cast upon the shores, and thus beget the belief that the lake is inhabited. As to the tradition that no bird can fly over it and live, Mr. Stevens, our intelligent fellow-townsman, says that he “saw a flock of gulls quietly reposing on its bosom; and when roused with a stone, they flew down the lake, skimming its surface, until they had carried themselves out of sight.”I

As the ancients appear to have been better acquainted with the Dead Sea, than the moderns, I quote the following account of it from Josephus, which comprises the substance of what is related by Diodorus Siculus, Strabo, Tacitus, Pliny, Ammianus, Galen, Lucretius, Vitruvius, Aristotle, Julius Africanus, Pausanias, and the Arabian Geographer, Schrif Ibn Idris. The nature of the Lake Asphaltites is also worth describing. It is, as I have said already, bitter and unfruitful. It is so light (thick?) that it bears up the heaviest things that are thrown into it ; nor is it easy for any one to make things sink therein to the bottom, if he had a mind so to do. Accordingly, when Vespasian went to see it, he commanded that some who could not swim, should have their hands tied behind them, and be thrown into the deep, when it so happened that they all swam, as if a wind had forced

* Dr. Shaw's Travels in Palestine.

+ Travels in Greece, Egypt, Palestine, &c., by F. A. De Chateaubriand, p. 263.

# Egypt, Arabia Petræa and the Holy Land, Vol. II. p. 271. them upwards. Moreover the change of the color of this lake is wonderful, for it changes its appearance thrice every day, and as the rays of the sun fall differently upon it, the light is variously reflected. However it casts up black clods of bitumen in many parts of it; these swim at the top of the water, and resemble both in shape and bigness headless bulls ; and when the laborers that belong to the lake come to it, and catch hold of it as it hangs together, they draw it into their ships; but when the ship is full, it is not easy to cut off the rest, for it is so tenacious as to make the ship hang upon its clods till they set it loose with the menstrual blood of women, and with urine, to which alone it yields. This bitumen is not only useful for the caulking of ships, but for the cure of men's bodies ; accordingly it is mixed in a great many medicines. The length of this lake is 580 furlongs where it is extended as far as Zoar in Arabia, and its breadth is 150. The country of Sodom borders upon it. It was of old a most happy land, both for the fruits it bore, and the riches of its cities, although it be now all burnt up. It is related, how for the impiety of its inhabitants it was burnt by lightning ; in consequence of which there are still the remainders of that divine fire, and the traces (or shadows) of the five cities are still to be seen, as well as the ashes, growing in their fruits, which have a color as if they were fit to be eaten; but if you pluck them with your hands, they dissolve into smoke and ashes.” (Wars of the Jews, B. IV. c. viii. sec. 4.)

The only other features in the geology of this region, which seem worthy of particular note, are the frequent occurrence of sulphur and the ridge of fossil salt,* from 150 to 200 feet

* The ancients were obviously well acquainted with the existence of this salt bed, and employed it extensively for economical purposes. Galen, after describing the usual wonderful properties of the waters of this lake, which he said he had visited and tasted, (“ radneQ xa1 MUELS Endino Quer,”) remarks, “ Vocant autem cum salem Sodemenum a montibus circumjacentibus lacum, qui Sodoma appellantur. Multi accolæ illo sale utuntur ad varios usus, ad quos nos alio sale utimur. Sed vis salis Sodomitici talis est, ut non modo plus exsicat quam alius sal, sed magis extenuet et digerat, quid majus tostus est."

« PreviousContinue »